The other day I saw the notice that Google was banning all explicit adult content from blogger.
Outside of the irony of remembering when the post’s author (Violet Blue) had her content deleted from Boing Boing back in 2008, she’s actually pretty uniquely qualified to talk about the difference between censorship and removal. For the record I think that it’s a pretty crappy thing to do and I don’t like it. But as I often say, my beliefs are pretty straight forward:
I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it. ~ Voltaire
Is It Censorship? Is It Censorship?
Let’s be clear on this. The change to Blogger’s Adult Content Policy is pretty straightforward.
Starting March 23, 2015, you won’t be able to publicly share images and video that are sexually explicit or show graphic nudity on Blogger.
Yes, this is a change to their Terms of Service (which they reserve the right to do at any time), but is it censorship for them to say “We don’t want hard core stuff on our servers”? That’s like saying a country music station on the radio is censoring heavy metal. No, they just don’t want to have it on their servers. Google’s said they don’t want that. They don’t want to do business or make money off of things they find morally distasteful.
Frankly I think the whole planet’s hang ups about sex are laughable. The majority of adults I know have consensual sex and like it. I do know a couple asexuals, and I know people who have reasons why they hate sex. I also know people who hate peanuts. It’s about the same thing for some of them (one has a traumatic peanut in his ear story that resulted in surgery and hearing loss). Sex is normal. It’s what everyone does and no one talks about (thank you George Carlin). So grown ups wanting to Google for information about the sex they want to have? There’s nothing wrong with that! There’s nothing wrong with kids looking that stuff up too. We used to hide in the back of libraries, looking things up when we didn’t feel comfortable asking our parents.
The argument that they’re not ‘censoring’ they’re just enforcing their guidelines falls flat when you remember that the definition of censorship is defined as acting as a censor. So yes, I think Google’s censoring, but in this instance they’re within their right to do so. That doesn’t mean I think it’s right, but I’ll support their legal rights.
Is It Discrimination? Is It Discrimination?
One of the sites hit up by this is a site where porn stars play D&D. I kinda like that site. It amuses me to no end and is how I learned about this change. They had just posted about how they’re leaving the escapist. They were talking about discrimination and general asshattery and non-inclusiveness. Their site may be punted off of Google’s Blogger service soon for being ‘adult’ by nature.
I’m actually not sure about that. But I really have no idea why their site is considered ‘adult’ in the first place. I’ve never read anything about sex there except this:
I’m Zak, I live in Los Angeles. Most of the people I know here are women I know from being a porn “actor”–so they’re porn stars and strippers. So that’s who I play Dungeons & Dragons with.
First of all, I want to play with them because the game looks fun, but mostly I don’t recall ever reading adult or explicit content there. So of course I started thinking about how they could be making it harder for people to read about things that help them understand themselves. A lot of people sort out what they’re interested in by quietly reading stories about other people who had similar issues and thoughts and feelings. While Google’s only said they’re punting “sexually explicit” content, that’s a really slippery road.
I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.
That quote is from United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, used to describe his threshold test for obscenity in Jacobellis v. Ohio in 1964 (the film being Louis Malle’s The Lovers). We’re allowing, and trusting, Google to define what is and is not explicit. And this means that it becomes a case by case value judgement. Are two women kissing ‘explicit’? It gets messy really fast.
Is It What I Expected? Is It What I Expected?
Yes. I totally expected this.
Google to punt all explicit blogs? Haaaaaaaaave you met WordPress?
I meant Self Hosted WordPress, James. Yes, WordPress.com also restricts and censors your content. It’s their playground. I will, till my dying day, support their right to do this. They don’t want to do business like that, fine. I wouldn’t argue the French restaurant that servers pomme frites needs to serve a hamburger or some chutney. That’s their business choice and it just means I can’t use them.
But it brings up the main reason why I still self-host.
And of course I work for a company who would host anything, as long as it’s legal.